Word of the Week (222): CHORTEN (probability 6797), by David Sutton

A CHORTEN is a Tibetan word for a Buddhist shrine, which usually takes the form of a hemispherical structure containing Buddhist relics, such as the ashes of a Buddhist monk. In other parts of the subcontinent this structure may be known as a STUPA or DAGOBA (which has a variant spelling DAGABA). It is similar in principle to a DARGAH (or DARGA or DURGAH), but that is an Islamic shrine built over the bones of a Sufi saint.

Other words associated with Buddhist religious structures include GOMPA, a Tibetan word for a Buddhist temple or monastery, TORAN (or TORANA), a sacred Buddhist gateway, MANI, a stone prayer wall in a Tibetan Buddhist temple, usually carved with sacred images or texts, VIHARA, a Buddhist temple or precinct, and of course the well known WAT, a Thai Buddhist temple, as in Angkor Wat.

Note that a VIHARA is not to be confused with a VIMANA, a Sanskrit word with multiple meanings that can mean the central tower enclosing the shrine in a temple, but can also refer to the flying palace of Ravana, Rama's primary antagonist in the great Indian epic the Ramayana, or to a chariot of the gods such as appears in the early Sanskrit hymns known as the Vedas.


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